SAN DIEGO — Authorities took 23 people into custody early Monday after the operator of a panga refused to stop off the coast of Point Loma, leading to a multi-agency response.
The U.S. Border Patrol said one of its agents was surveilling the coast just before 3 a.m. when they spotted a panga with multiple people onboard west of Point Loma. The U.S. Coast Guard deployed a cutter and made contact with the panga west of Sunset Cliffs.
A Border Patrol spokesperson said the person operating the panga ignored the Coast Guard’s commands to stop the boat, which got stuck in the surf line as it got closer to shore.
Fearing the boat would capsize, Border Patrol agents called San Diego Lifeguards and Harbor Police. They pulled the panga from the surf line and got 23 people — 20 men and three women — off the boat and onto a Coast Guard cutter, the Border Patrol spokesperson said.
The panga was towed to San Diego Lifeguard Headquarters, where Border Patrol agents questioned the people who were originally on the boat. Agents determined they were illegally present in the U.S. and the 23 men and women were transferred to USBP custody for processing, the Border Patrol spokesperson said.
Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations team seized the panga and the investigation into where it launched and its destination is ongoing.